Media Briefing|

[This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated]

Assalaam-o-Alaikum and Good Afternoon,

I wish to begin by updating you on the 75th Session of the United Nations General Assembly.

The High Level Week and General Debate of the 75th Session Assembly commenced on 22 September and will continue till 29 September.

Due to COVID-19 pandemic, the United Nations has, for the first time convened world leaders in a virtual format.

The theme for the 75th General Debate is “The future we want, the United Nations we need: reaffirming our collective commitment to multilateralism – confronting COVID-19 through effective multilateral action.”

The Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister of Pakistan are participating in the Session virtually.

Prime Minister Imran Khan will address the 75th General Assembly on 25th September.

In his address, the Prime Minister will share Pakistan’s perspective on various regional and international issues.

He will once again raise the issue of Jammu and Kashmir dispute.

In his wide-ranging address, the Prime Minister will also share Pakistan’s successful handling of COVID-19, his debt relief initiative for developing countries and Islamophobia.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi addressed a high-level virtual meeting of the General Assembly to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the United Nations.

In his statement, the Foreign Minister commended the United Nations for its numerous accomplishments over the years to advance the principles and purposes of the UN Charter.

He acknowledged, in particular, the important role played by the organization in facilitating decolonization, addressing the threats of climate change and helping to promote a vision of inclusive and sustainable development through the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals.

The Foreign Minister called for the respect of the right to self-determination promised to the people of Jammu and Kashmir as well as Palestine by the United Nations.

He reminded the world that the people of IIOJK still await fulfillment of the commitments made to them by the United Nations.

The Foreign Minister cautioned against the growing inability of the international community to join ranks in collectively addressing common challenges including the COVID-19 pandemic, that has not only strengthened forces of unilateralism, fascism, xenophobia and Islamophobia, but has also given rise to fears that the multilateral order itself is under threat.

Highlighting Pakistan’s important role in maintaining international peace and security, the Foreign Minister stated that Pakistan has contributed over 200,000 troops to 47 Missions in 26 countries, losing 157 of our bravest in the process.

He recalled that Pakistan also hosted the largest protracted refugee population.

Reaffirming Pakistan’s abiding commitment to multilateralism, the Foreign Minister said that Pakistan would continue to play a leading role in advancing the mutually reinforcing goals of peace, security, development and human rights.

The Foreign Minister also participated virtually in the Informal Session of SAARC Council of Ministers on the sidelines of 75th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, today.

The Ministers of all SAARC Member States and the Secretary General SAARC participated.

Reaffirming Pakistan’s commitment to the SAARC process, the Foreign Minister highlighted its importance in the context of regional economic and development challenges.

The Foreign Minister underscored that peaceful resolution of outstanding disputes was a pre-requisite for achieving development, economic growth, poverty alleviation and social uplift of the masses.

Coming to the situation in Indian illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir, the situation continues to deteriorate, for the past 416 days, since India’s illegal and unilateral actions of 5 August 2019.

Extra judicial killings and demographic change in IIOJK are amongst the serious most challenges, requiring immediate attention of the world community.

In this regard, I wish to reiterate Pakistan’s call for a transparent judicial inquiry, under international scrutiny, into the extra-judicial killing of three innocent Kashmiris in IIOJK on 18 July 2020.

Three young Kashmiri boys, who had come to Shopian to work as laborers in apple orchards, were extra judicially killed by Indian occupation forces on 18 July 2020.

To cover up the “cold blooded” murder of these innocent Kashmiris, the Indian occupation army had claimed that the three were “unidentified terrorists.”

To further hide their crime, instead of handing over the human remains to the families of the victims, the Indian occupation forces had buried them in a graveyard marked for “foreign terrorists.”

Now, two months after the reprehensible incident, on 18 September 2020, the Indian occupation Army, through a statement, has admitted that the three innocent Kashmiri laborers were killed extra-judicially – a hallmark of Indian occupation forces’ state-terrorism in IIOJK.

The Indian Army’s statement is an acknowledgement that Indian occupation forces are guilty of war crimes in IIOJK.

Pakistan strongly rejects and denounces the Indian occupation army’s statement, indicating disciplinary proceedings against the officials for the crime.

India must realize that it cannot cover-up such heinous crimes of the occupation army through disciplinary proceedings.

Neither the Kashmiri people nor Pakistan or the international community will accept such farcical proceedings.

The act amounts to serious war crimes that must be thoroughly investigated through a transparent judicial inquiry, under international scrutiny.

Pakistan has been consistently sensitizing the world community about the dangers of draconian laws in IIOJK, including the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and Public Safety Act (PSA), that provide near complete impunity to the Indian occupation forces.

The fact that even draconian powers, vested under the illegal and inhuman Acts, are being exceeded, is a reprehensible reflection of the unacceptable state of human rights in IIOJK.

We deeply appreciate the statement by the OIC- Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission (OIC IPHRC), strongly condemning these extra judicial killings by the Indian occupation forces.

The Commission has called for establishment of a Commission of Inquiry under the UN to investigate these extra judicial killings and grave human rights violations.

The Commission has also urged India to repeal AFSPA and PSA and respect the Kashmiris’ right to self-determination as per the UN and OIC Resolutions

The international community must also take cognizance of the 18 July 2020 episode as well as other acts indicative of the RSS-BJP regime’s genocidal tendencies and hold it accountable for continuing crimes against the Kashmiri people.

Let me also reiterate Pakistan’s categorical rejection and condemnation of India’s continued attempts to illegally alter the demographic structure of IIOJK.

Being in violation of international law, including the 4th Geneva Convention, and the UNSC Resolutions, the Jammu and Kashmir Grant of Domicile Certificate Rules 2020 is illegal and void ab-initio.

No illegal Order can provide legal cover for the demographic change in IIOJK.

Pakistan has been consistently sensitizing the world community that by changing the demographic structure of IIOJK, India is trying to undermine the exercises by the Kashmiri people of their right to self-determination, through a free and impartial plebiscite under the UN auspices as per the UN Security Council Resolutions.

Therefore, Pakistan demands the Government of India to immediately rescind over 1.85 million bogus domiciles distributed to non-Kashmiris since June 2020.

The officials involved in issuance of sham domicile certificates must know that by indulging themselves in this illegal exercise, they are committing serious crimes against the Kashmiri people.

To divert attention from the domestic issues and ongoing humanitarian crisis in IIOJK, the BJP regime is continuously trying to escalate tensions along the Line of Control.

This year, India has committed 2,333 ceasefire violations to date, resulting in 18 shahadats and serious injuries to 185 innocent civilians.

These egregious violations of international law and belligerent posture towards Pakistan pose a serious threat to peace and security in South Asia.

To provide first-hand knowledge of the situation on ground, today, Pakistan has once again arranged a visit of Islamabad-based Ambassadors, diplomats and Defence Attachés to the Line of Control.

Pakistan has always welcomed the UN observers, international media and foreign diplomats to the LOC.

On the contrary, despite repeated calls, India has been denying access to the international media, UN observers and humanitarian organizations to hide its false claims and worst humanitarian situation in IIOJK.

At the request of the Foreign Minister, the members of the OIC Contact Group on Jammu and Kashmir met for an informal meeting in New York.

The Contact Group reviewed recent developments relating to Jammu and Kashmir, including the grave human rights and humanitarian situation in IIOJK and escalation in tensions along the LOC.

The Contact Group called upon the UN Secretary-General, the UNSC and the UN Human Rights Council to implement the Security Council Resolutions calling for a plebiscite to enable the people of IIOJK to exercise their right to self-determination.

Pakistan deeply appreciates Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for once again raising his voice in support of the rights of Kashmiri people during his address at the UN General Assembly.

President Erdogan reiterated that the Jammu and Kashmir dispute, which is a key to the stability and peace of South Asia, is still a burning issue.

The President supported the resolution of Jammu and Kashmir dispute through dialogue within the framework of the United Nations resolutions and in line with expectations of the Kashmiris.

Let me also update you on the “Jodhpur incident”.

Despite Pakistan’s repeated calls, the Government of India has still not shared the requisite information regarding the death of 11 Pakistani Hindu in Jodhpur, India under mysterious circumstance.

To share the anxiety of Pakistani Hindu community over the incident, Dr. Ramesh Kumar, Member National Assembly of Pakistan and Patron-in-Chief of Pakistan Hindu Council called on Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi.

Dr Kumar, apprised the Foreign Minister of the serious concerns of the Hindu Community over the incident as well as the safety and security of other Pakistani Hindu families visiting India.

Understanding the concerns of the Hindu community, the Foreign Minister assured Dr. Kumar of the Government of Pakistan’s full support in seeking justice for the family of the victims and the well-being of Pakistani Hindus.

We, once again, call upon the Government of India to provide the requisite information without further delay and carry out a comprehensive and transparent investigation into the matter and share its findings with Pakistan immediately.

I thank you and am happy to take questions on these or other foreign policy related developments.

Question: Members of Hindu community from across Pakistan are going to protest in front of the Indian High Commission in Islamabad on the mysterious death of 11 Pakistani Hindus in Jodhpur in India. Generally, people are not allowed to enter the Diplomatic Enclave for such protests. Do you think that these protestors be allowed to enter the Diplomatic Enclave? Will it not be a security issue? (Zahid Farooq, Metro Watch)

Supplementary Question: The reaction of Pakistani Hindu community over mysterious deaths of 11 Hindus in India is understandable. Would the protestors be allowed to protest in front of Indian High Commission in Diplomatic enclave? Since the entire diplomatic community is residing in the enclave, how Pakistan is planning to sensitize the international community on this incident?

Secondly, while briefing the members of the Diplomatic Corps at LoC, Director General ISPR said that India is using cluster munitions. Would you please comment whether the use of cluster ammunition is illegal under international conventions? (Naveed Akbar, Aaj News)

Answer: As for your specific question whether protestors will be allowed to enter the Diplomatic Enclave, since it is law and order and security issue, Islamabad Police would be at a better position to comment.

I wish to reiterate that Jodhpur incident is a matter of grave concern for the Government and the people of Pakistan, particularly the Pakistani Hindu community.

Despite Pakistan’s repeated calls, the Government of India continues to evade the issue and has failed to share substantive details regarding the cause and circumstances of the deaths.

The daughter of the deceased head of the family, Shrimati Mukhi, has made highly concerning statements; implicating the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) in murder of her father, mother and other family members, allegedly after the Agency failed to convince them to spy on Pakistan and issue anti- Pakistan statements.

We, once again, call upon the Government of India to provide the requisite information without further delay and carry out a comprehensive and transparent investigation into the matter and share its findings with Pakistan immediately.

Regarding use of cluster munitions, we have been repeatedly saying that use of metal pellets and Cluster Munition are in violation of international law, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearm. Pakistan will continue to raise this issue at all the relevant platforms.

Question: Minorities in India are not treated well, as recently the Indian government did not permit the Indian Sikh pilgrims to visit the Shrine of Baba Guru Nanak on the occasion of 481st death anniversary. How do you comment on this? (Khawaja Nayyer Iqbal, Media Today)

Answer: Pakistan opened the Kartarpur Corridor, a true symbol of peace and religious harmony, on the eve of the 550th Birth Anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak as a goodwill gesture and keeping in view the long-standing desire of Sikh devotees from India, Pakistan and across the world. This landmark initiative of Prime Minister of Pakistan has been immensely appreciated by the Sikh community all over the world.

The Corridor was temporarily closed on 16th March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As religious places have opened up around the world, Pakistan also made necessary arrangements to reopen Kartarpur Sahib Corridor for Sikh pilgrims.On the other hand, despite our reminders, the Indian side did not open the corridor.

The treatment of minorities in India is a matter of serious concern, not only for the Indian minorities and the neighboring countries, but also for the international community.

The Gujarat massacre and recent Delhi pogrom are glaring examples of systematic campaign against minorities in India, who face further exclusion as well as increasing threat of mob violence. These instances have been extensively documented in the Indian and international media.

Question: How does Pakistan see the US statement regarding snapback sanctions against Iran in light of the UN Secretary General’s response that United Nations will not support the move until it gets a green light from the Security Council? What is Pakistan position on JCPOA? (Zulqarnain, ARY)

Answer: We have seen the US statement. We have also noted the position taken by other parties to the JCPOA. As for Pakistan, our position on JCPOA has been clear and consistent.

We believe that JCPOA represented a good example of resolution of complex issues through diplomatic negotiations. There is no change in Pakistan’s principled position on JCPOA.

We continue to believe in the utility of constructive engagement.

Question: While acknowledging Pakistan’s key role in the Afghan Peace Process, the newly appointed US Ambassador to Pakistan William Todd has said Pakistan needs to do more. He emphasized that one of his main goals in Pakistan will be advancing the issue of disappearance of journalists, which undermines the exercise of the right of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression. Will you please comment? (Adeel Bashir, Roze News)

Supplementary Question: It has been reported that Mr. Abdullah Abdullah, the head of Afghan Peace Council, is scheduled to visit Pakistan on 29th September. Is it continuation of ongoing Afghan Peace efforts, or there are other agenda points of the visit? Would you please give us details? (Naveed Siddiqui, Dawn News)

Supplementary Question: Recently, we have seen increasing incidents of infiltration at Pakistan-Afghanistan border, which is causing many casualties. How is Pakistan responding to this issue diplomatically? (Changez Khan Jadoon, Khyber News)

Supplementary Question: Pakistan has always been saying that it has long standing and cooperative relations and strategic partnership with United States. However while appreciating Pakistan role in Afghan peace process, the United States always uses strong language against Pakistan in its joint statements with India and blames Pakistan for terrorism. How do you comment on this? (Aijaz Ahmed, GNN)

Answer: As for the visit of Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, final details are being worked out. We will share the exact dates and details of the visit in due course.

As for fencing along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, we have already fenced a major part of the border in accordance with established norms of international law to address Pakistan’s serious security concerns. The government of Pakistan is committed to complete the fencing of the border on priority.

Pakistan believes that Afghan soil should not be used for anti-Pakistan activities and we have repeatedly conveyed this to our Afghan friends. We believe that every effort should be made to not let the Afghan soil be used against Pakistan.

Regarding the comments by the US Ambassador- designate to Pakistan, Pak-US ties are historic and longstanding and have always served our mutual interests. The level of engagement between the two countries has witnessed a remarkable improvement in the last couple of years.

Pakistan and U.S. have coordinated closely for achieving peace and political reconciliation in Afghanistan. We are working together on number of other areas. We hope that when the new Ambassador assumes his responsibilities in Pakistan, he would work for further strengthening of Pakistan-US relations.

Question: As you appreciated the statement made by Turkish President at UNGA, are you expecting such support from other Arab Countries on the dispute of Jammu and Kashmir? (Hassan Riaz, JNN)

Answer: OIC has played an important role on the Jammu and Kashmir dispute. There are multiple resolutions passed by the OIC and various statements from OIC and the OIC-IPHRC, condemning grave human rights violations in IIOJK.

They have been consistently raising their voice for the people of Jammu and Kashmir, and for the resolution of the dispute in line with the UNSC resolutions and the aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

The Arab Countries have also been supporting the people of Jammu and Kashmir and continue to support them.

Question: It has been reported that Indian National Investigation Agency (NIA) has claimed to have arrested 9 Al-Qaida operatives in India under alleged links with Pakistan. What is your comment? (Tariq Mehmood, Hum News)

Answer: I would like to highlight that there is no presence of Al-Qaida or any of its organized remnants in Pakistan.

During the war against terrorism, Pakistan undertook thousands of security operations against Al-Qaida.

As a result of these security operations, Al-Qaida has been eliminated from Pakistan, a fact which is also recognized by the international community.

The Indian NIA’s story claiming so-called handlers of the apprehended individuals in India, having association with Pakistan-sponsored module of Al-Qaida, is baseless and is a typical diversionary Indian approach.

The online radicalization through social media and use of internet for criminal purposes are global phenomena which the world is grappling with.

Pakistan’s law enforcement agencies constantly monitor the internet and shuts down all online radical or extremist activities in our cyberspace.

Question: It has been reported in the Indian media that SAPM to Prime Minister on National Security and Strategic Planning has been the principle player in Pakistan’s decision to give provincial status to Gilgit-Baltistan and he is also working to turn the LoC with India into an international border. What are your comments? (Ali Hussain, Business Recorder)

Supplementary Question: In the earlier press briefings by Foreign Office as well as public statements by other Government Officials, a consistent stance was maintained that Gilgit-Baltistan remains a disputed territory under the J&K dispute. News Reports that are coming in are suggesting that Imran Khan’s visit to US last year, as well as a potential change in GB’s status by Pakistan may give impetus to the Indian illegal actions on 5th August, 2019. How do you respond to this? (Sheeraz, Neo TV)

Supplementary Question: Palestine and Jammu and Kashmir remain the only two major disputes that have still not been resolved despite the involvement of UN and other international stakeholders. US has also been making efforts to resolve differences between Israel and Arab States for quite some time now. With regards to Kashmir, India has been making efforts to remove J&K dispute form the UNSC’s agenda. What efforts are being made by Pakistan to counter such moves? (Zaheer , SAMAA TV)

Supplementary Question: It has been reported that the Pakistan has decided to make Gilgit Baltistan a new province. In this regard, there has been some political development as well. Is it correct that Pakistan is taking this move on behest of China? (Adeel Bashir, Roze News)

Answer: We have seen the baseless story in Indian media. Such stories are a handy work of hyperactive Indian propaganda machine. By making such false propaganda, the Government of India cannot change the reality, and the reality is that India is losing in IIOJK.

The reforms in Gilgit Baltistan are an ongoing process. It includes political, administrative and economic reforms based on the long-standing demands of the people of Gilgit Baltistan.

Such reforms will continue in line with the needs of the people of Gilgit Baltistan, and not in wake of India’s illegal unilateral actions of 5th August 2019.

As for the LOC part of the fictional story by the Indian media, Pakistan’s position remains clear and consistent.

The final resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute lies in fulfilling the aspirations of the people of Kashmir, determined through a free and fair plebiscite under the auspices of the United Nations.

There is and there can be no change in this principled position.

Question: My question relates to Kulbhushan Jadhav’s case. What has been India’s response so far? Is India ready to cooperate with the Pakistan on the matter? (Aijaz Ahmed, GNN)

Supplementary Question: I have a straight forward question about Kulbhushan Jadhav. Is Pakistan going to execute him or not? (Rashida Siyal, Abb Tak)

Answer: Let me begin with the question about Kulbhushan Jadhav. When Commander Jadhav was arrested in Pakistan, he confessed his involvement in terrorist activities in Pakistan during the investigation. India took the issue of grant of consular access to Commander Jadhav to the International Court of Justice (ICJ). In its judgment, ICJ asked for four things: to apprise Commander Kulbhushan Jadhav of his rights under the Vienna Convention; to provide consular access to him through Indian consular official; to provide for effective review and reconsideration of his conviction and to stay the execution till an effective review and reconsideration was provided. Pakistan has been complying with all of these.

Our understanding is that India is making every possible effort to frustrate Pakistan’s efforts for implementation of the ICJ judgment and use Kulbhushan Jadhav’s case as propaganda tool against Pakistan.

The Indian side has inter-alia been making incongruous demand of allowing Indian or a foreign lawyer to represent Commander Jadhav. We have repeatedly told them that only those lawyers can represent Commander Jadhav in the Court who have the license to practice law in Pakistan. This is in accordance with legal practice in other jurisdictions as well. Indian Supreme Court, in one of its judgments, has also ruled that foreign lawyers cannot practice law within the country.

To give effect to the ICJ judgment, the Government of Pakistan has itself approached the Islamabad High Court. India must come forward and cooperate with the Courts in Pakistan to give effect to the judgment of ICJ.

Pakistan being a responsible member of International community is fully cognizant of its obligation to comply with the ICJ’s decision. I cannot predict what the decision in the matter would be, but effective review and reconsideration in the case can only be provided by Courts in Pakistan.

Question: Bahrain and UAE have established relations with Israel, including cooperation in security and intelligence fields. How can this impact Pakistan’s own defense relations with these two Gulf Countries? (Kausar Lodhi, Prime News)

Answer: I cannot comment on Bahrain and UAE’s relations with any third country as a matter of principle. However, I would like to add that peace and stability in the Middle East region remains Pakistan’s key priority. There is no change in Pakistan’s principled position on Palestine.

We have an abiding commitment to the full realization of the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, including the right to self-determination.

For a just, comprehensive and lasting peace, Pakistan has consistently supported a two-state solution in accordance with the relevant United Nations and OIC resolutions as well as international law, with pre 1967 borders and Al-Quds Al-Sharif as the capital of Palestine.

As for the recent developments, Pakistan’s approach will be guided by our evaluation of how Palestinians’ rights and aspirations are upheld and how regional peace, security and stability are preserved.

Question: Indian Permanent Representative to the United Nations said that remarks made by President of Turkey regarding the Jammu & Kashmir dispute constitute gross interference in Indian internal affairs and are completely unacceptable. What is your comment? (Amjad Ali, PTV)

Answer: Pakistan greatly appreciates the statement by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, raising the dispute of Jammu and Kashmir once again at the UN General Assembly.

As I mentioned in my opening statement, the Turkish President has effectively and forcefully raised his voice for the Kashmiri people.

As for the comments made by the Indian Permanent Representative to the UN, describing the Jammu and Kashmir dispute as an “internal affair” of India, I can only say that such remarks are delusional and contrary to historical and legal facts. By making such baseless statements Indian officials can only score brownie points with the local audience, but cannot mislead the world opinion.

Jammu and Kashmir is an internationally recognized dispute and remains on the agenda of the UN Security Council for over 7 decades.

The very fact that the UNSC held three meetings on the Jammu and Kashmir dispute, since India’s illegal and unilateral actions of 5 August, 2019, reaffirms that it remains seized of the matter.

Let me also remind the Indian PR that human rights are universal and can never be an internal matter for any country.

The international condemnation of India for its human rights violations in IIOJK should be used by the BJP regime and the Indian representatives in New York to do some serious introspection.

India must come out of its self denial mode and face the international reality of Jammu and Kashmir dispute.

Question: The Saudi Government had issued guidelines for Pakistanis laborers and Aqama holders due to Covid-19. Now the Pakistanis nationals would like to go back to Saudi Arabia, is the government of Pakistan taking up this issue with the Government of Saudi to facilitate their return to Saudi Arabia? (Saad Umar, Capital Times)

Answer: As you are well aware, the Government of Pakistan made extraordinary efforts to repatriate Pakistani nationals stranded in different parts of the world due to COVID-19 pandemic and facilitated their repatriation. The purpose of this entire process was to facilitate overseas Pakistanis.

As for the current flight restrictions, each country has taken its own measures keeping in view the local Covid-19 situation. We respect the restrictions imposed by the host countries but wherever it is possible, the Government of Pakistan will take all possible steps to facilitate the Pakistani nationals.

Question: There are millions of Afghan refugees in Pakistan for more than forty years. Is the discussion to repatriate them going on between the two countries or this process will begin after the Afghan peace process? What is their future? (Abbas Jafar, Daily District News)

Answer: Pakistan has wholeheartedly accepted the Afghan refugees. Pakistan is one of the largest refugees hosting country. We believe that repatriation and reintegration of Afghan refugees should be a part of the peace and reconciliation process. We call upon international community to support time-bound and well-resourced return of Afghan refugees with dignity and honour.

We are hopeful that peace returning to Afghanistan as an outcome of the ongoing peace process, will help the repatriation of Afghan refuges to their homeland with dignity and honour.

Question: A general impression about SAARC is that its potential has not yet been realized to its fullest. In Pakistan’s view, who is to be blamed for such inaction?

My second question is that Foreign Office summons senior Indian Diplomats every other day to lodge protests over ceasefire violations at the LOC. Will the same practice be continued or can Pakistan adopt a better protest strategy? (Mazhar, Public News)

Supplementary Question: The next SAARC Summit was supposed to be held in Pakistan. Has Pakistan urged other SAARC members for cooperation in this regard? (Amjad Ali, PTV)

Answer: Being a founding member of SAARC, Pakistan remains committed to the SAARC process and considers it an important platform for regional cooperation.

Pakistan also remains committed to the SAARC Charter and has always actively participated in the SAARC activities as Pakistan realizes that South Asia remains one of the least integrated regions in the world. However, there are some countries which are creating obstacles in the way of SAARC. We have highlighted this issue many a times at the level of SAARC as well as in our bilateral interactions with other SAARC member states. There is a need to remove all such hurdles.

Question: Government of Pakistan has a plan to establish border markets. Which neighboring countries are included in the plan and how long will it take for these markets to get functional? (Mateen Syed, Parliament Times)

Answer: Border Markets will be established on the Pak-Iran and Pak-Afghan borders. As per my understanding, 18 such markets have been planned to be setup. Some of these markets will get operational in the first stage of the plan, whereas others will follow suit in subsequent stages.

The basic purpose of these markets is to generate economic opportunities for the natives of those areas, and enhance bilateral trade cooperation with these neighboring countries.

I thank you all.

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